Nostalgia wins again! Disney’s The Lion King 3D, a technologically enhanced re-release of the 1994 animated classic, tore up the competition at the box office this weekend, earning an estimated $29.3 million — more than the other three newcomers combined.
In The Lion King‘s original theatrical run, it roared up a stunning $312.9 million total, becoming the highest-grossing animated film in box office history at that time. The film earned another $15.7 million during a 2002 IMAX re-release, and now another $29.3 million during the first weekend of its two-week run. All told, Simba and co. have grossed $357.8 million in theaters domestically over the last two decades.
And then there’s the home market, where Disney is hoping buyers will seek out The Lion King on Blu-ray 3D when it debuts on Oct. 4. According to The-Numbers, The Lion King has amassed $1.5 billion in home market revenue from video sales and rentals, and after the profitable publicity of this weekend, that number should be moving up shortly. The Mouse House converted The Lion King into 3-D for a very low cost (a rep for the studio said “the low single digits”), so even if the film completely bombs on DVD — which it won’t — it’s already proving to be a big success.
An impressive 92 percent of The Lion King 3D‘s gross came from 3-D screens, and it earned a terrific $12,575 per theater average by playing to a very wide range of moviegoers. People under the age of 25 made up 59 percent of the audience, as families (who made up 74 percent of the audience) took their kids to see the film. Still, many couples and young people without children saw the film simply for nostalgic reasons. Women slightly edged out men in rewatching the popular musical — females made up 56 percent of the crowd.
But enough about lions — let’s get to the rest of the chart! Last weekend’s champ, Contagion, came in second place, declining just 35 percent to $14.5 million and lifting its total to $44.2 million. The well-reviewed illness thriller remained a top choice for adult audiences on a weekend when Straw Dogs, Drive, and I Don’t Know How She Does It were all targeting them as well. If the Warner Brothers picture can maintain soft week-to-week drops, it will have no trouble earning back its $60 million budget.
Ryan Gosling’s artsy thriller Drive raced into third place with $11 million. The R-rated FilmDistrict production, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, played mostly to an older crowd, as 75 percent of the audience was 25 or older. Unfortunately, not everyone who saw the film liked it — despite strong critical reviews, audiences issued Drive a harsh “C–” CinemaScore grade, which does not bode well for its box-office longevity. Hopefully this is not a sign of things to come to Gosling/Refn collaborations. The film earned a fair $3,818 per theater average.
In fourth place was Disney’s stalwart August release The Help, which continued to work up solid numbers in its sixth weekend. The Kathryn Stockett adaptation fell by 28 percent to $6.4 million, and it has now earned $147.4 million against its $25 million budget. If only the films in fifth and sixth place were so lucky…
Straw Dogs debuted in fifth place with a very weak $5 million. The Sony remake (of Sam Peckinpah’s 1971 film with Dustin Hoffman), which played mostly to males (60 percent) and older audiences (61 percent at least 25 years-old) has already exhibited major frontloadedness, earning $2 million on Friday but only 2.5 times that over the full frame. With a “C” CinemaScore grade, Straw Dogs will be lucky to break $10 million total.
Next up was Sarah Jessica Parker’s rom-com I Don’t Know How She Does It, which I can only imagine is a two-hour clip of Parker wondering how she (obviously, Nala), actually does it (makes money at the box office). The Weinstein production, produced for about $20-25 million, earned just $4.5 million over the Friday-to-Sunday period, failing even to live up to Parker’s 2009 box-office bomb Did You Hear About The Morgans?, which debuted to $6.6 million. The film was viewed by 74 percent females, and it received a “B–” CinemaScore grade.
Other notable box-office happenings this weekend: Rise of the Planet of the Apes crossed the $170 million plateau, Crazy Stupid Love surpassed $80 million total, and Kevin Hart: Laugh At My Pain earned another $1.2 million out of only 230 theaters, lifting its 10-day total to a remarkable $3.6 million.
1. The Lion King 3D — $29.3 mil
2. Contagion — $14.5 mil
3. Drive — $11.0 mil
4. The Help — $6.4 mil
5. Straw Dogs — $5.0 mil
6. I Don’t Know Who She Does It — $4.5 mil
7. The Debt — $2.9 mil
8. Warrior — $2.8 mil
9. Rise of the Planet of the Apes — $2.6 mil
10. Colombiana — $2.3 mil
Follow Grady on Twitter: @BoxOfficeJunkie